In their first year of life, children are naturally curious, and since they usually aren't walking yet, they make the most of what's in reach. As most parents can attest, mealtime provides one of the best opportunities for mess-making. Many babies will energetically fling their cereal from the bowl or run their fingers through the pureed peas. "My 6-month-old, Harlee, is always whacking the spoon out of my hand so that her cereal flies in all directions," says Sherri Markowitz of New York City.
"Little ones love doing anything that results in an interesting experience -- splashing water, playing with food, putting things in their mouth," says Acredolo. "At this age, they are also just beginning to watch and compare the consequences of their actions."
Around the 8-month mark, babies begin to crawl, enabling them to explore things they couldn't get to before. However, their exploration will be hampered by their inability to pull themselves up -- so while they may be able to tip over the trash basket, their days of knocking coasters off your coffee table or toppling books from the shelf are still a few months off.